26 November 2009

[logos] The New AOL Logo Is More Of An Emotion

2266.AOL has come a long long way since 1983, when it was just another online network provider specializing in Commodore 64s (QuantumLink). America On Line rose from a member of that prehistoric scrum to the top of the world for a while – actually becoming a equal, at least in nomenclature, of the venerable Time magazine; the once-geeky haven grew big enough to eat Time Warner to morph into AOL Time Warner, a move seen then as a herald of the New Media, with hands in the old world of print but looking toward the apparently ascendant one of online electronic media and commerce.

Ah, but the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say. As it turned out, just about the time AOL laid out 164 US Megabucks for it, the tech bubble was starting its legendary deflation and the online landscape was beginning its seismic shift away from nation-spanning ISPs and "walled gardens" to the … well, whatever the hell it's supposed to be today. By 2003, the bloom came off the rose, and the AOL came off the Time Warner. By 2005, AOL Wunderkind emeritus Steve Case was not only no longer the excecutive chariman, he was off the board entirely, and now, in 2009, AOL, the ISP That Ate Time Warner, is getting spun off … by Time Warner.

This, of course, means it's time for a re-branding. And that's going to happen as of December 10th.

Throughout its life, the AOL logo has been a rather skillfully-conventional implementation of imbuing a graphic mark with a certain style and letting it stand in for the company. The AOL logos from the late 80s though the 90s and to the doorstep of the 00s were a clever combination of the elements suggesting the A (the big triangle) the O (the upper curve of the swirl suggesting a O) and an L (which is what the lower curve of the swirl suggests). The result is a compact, locked-down logo that contains an energetic heart – kind of the idea of the AOL walled garden, indeed:

As the 80s and 90s ground on and certain fashions fell by the wayside, AOL got rid of the Flashdance inspired typography and simply shifted, as many similarly-named entities seem to over time, to just an initialism:

… a move which was just stylish enough at the time. An interesting point; the letters AOL stopped officially standing for America On Line at this point, and the AOL trigram became a name in and of itself. That hasn't stopped the old-school punters from remembering it as – and still thinking of it as – America On Line (or, as my friends at the time called it, "A**holes On Line").

After the turn of the century and The Biggest Media Merger Evar Until A Bigger One Comes Along, AOL saw the light – realized by a soft light complete with Official Web 2.0 gradients, which actually abstracted the already-abstract AOL logo:

The triangle has become an arrowhead; the AOL logo has become a "play button". Like it or not (and I've seen both opinions – mine is, not bad actually) it's au courant and fairly hip to the trends.

Now, in 2009, the AOL star, rather dimmed, is leaving the Time Warner constellation. The online environment now looks nothing whatsoever like the cosy dialup environment that AOL helped define and poor AOL, even with its hip new Web 2.0 logo, was really feeling out of place.

The first thing one asks onesself after the breakup of a relationship that defines them is usually "who am I? Where am I going now?" And what's AOL's answer going to be, as expressed by it's new logo and identity?

I'm not really sure. You see, all of the above is AOL's new identity – and none of them are. As defined by the company itself:

The new AOL brand identity is a simple, confident logotype, revealed by ever changing images.  It’s one consistent logo with countless ways to reveal.

Just like someone on the rebound – you're everything to everyone. Not even that, really, you're whatever you want me to want you to be, with the true-blue, consistent heart revealed by your ever changing ways. To be exacting, the AOL logo is gone from being AOL to being "Aol." a three letter mixed-case combination which actually pretends to single-glyphdom, with a full-stop bringing the confidence.

Why is it I feel as though I've stepped into a Khalil Gibran poem? The premium seems to be on dynamism. The "Aol." isn't on display, it matches the background and doesn't appear until something steps behind it, it's revealed, as stated, by ever-moving backgrounds, some of them rather pretty in and of themselves, as demoed by the video at this location at the AOL Corporate site. And how pround of this approach is AOL? You can download this video! Here's the link for QuickTime, and here's the link for Flash Video.

I've downloaded it, even though I can't explain why. The whole thing seems New-Coke-y, but AOL … sorry, "Aol.", may be on to something here.

Credit for courage, though, for pushing the evelope as what qualifies as a graphic element to something that's rather like nailing jelly to the wall. Seriously, I'm impressed by the bravado here.

Good luck with that, AOL.

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24 November 2009

[art] Painters Rejoice: Finally A Perfect, Durable Blue – Oregon State Blue

2265.Pigments in paint are made from some amazing things. Tiny beetles, cochineal, give us many reds (as well as the red food coloring that actually goes into food). Ground semi-precious stones (lapis lazuli) give us the blue in Ultramarine.

Biggest problem with painters' pigments is the permanence. Blues and reds are the worst; unless the works are cared for, they fade over time (artists say that they are fugitive). Moreover, some of the chemicals that create these colors are nasty: cadmium, a heavy metal, is used in both reds and blues (that aren't labelled hue; these colors are analogues), Prussian blue can leach cyanide, and cobalt is a carcinogen).

Enter Oregon State University. Creative things come from OSU – did you know that the humble Maraschino cherry originated at OSU Food Science? Well, they've done it again – accidentally:

So it was a pleasant surprise to chemists at Oregon State University when they created a new, durable and brilliantly blue pigment by accident.

The researchers were trying to make compounds with novel electronic properties, mixing manganese oxide, which is black, with other chemicals and heating them to high temperatures.

Then Mas Subramanian, a professor of material sciences, noticed that one of the samples that a graduate student had just taken out of the furnace was blue.

The pigment is a quantum leap but is very expensive to make, based on the materials involved. They say they're looking for less expensive chemicals to use.

Bravo, OSU … from the hallwed academia of Orange comes Oregon State Blue.

Rumors of a truly durable and permanent red are, of course, still crazy talk, along with warp drive.

(via, via and via, and here's the University's announcment)

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[liff] Pareidolia: New Jersey In The Sky

2264.We see what we want to see – or, more appropriately, we recognize what we recognize. And when confronted with a field of random, visual information, we impress meaning upon it, especially if that random information happens to form patterns we are familiar with.

This is what we call pareidolia. It's what we humans seem helpless to resist doing to make sense out of a senseless world. For instance, in this picture (nicked from Strange Maps), the cloud just happens to resemble New Jersey:

Just to see how close, here's an actual map of New Jersey along side:

Uncanny, isn't it? There are some places where the match misses it by a mile, but it's close enough for jazz, as we like to say.

The post at Strange Maps is here, and includes asphalt Maines, many versions of Australia, even a food-based District of Columbia.

Pariedolia is a strange and wild beast. It's why some think there's a human face on Mars; it's why so many see Jesus in peeling paint and the Madonna on a grilled cheese sandwich. We're programmed to recognize things we know, and if things just so happen to fall into a familiar pattern, our recognizer turns on and sees what we recognize.

Sometimes it's a very close resemblance, but sometimes it can be a mile off but still be reminiscent.

The next time you see something that makes you think of something else (Tanzania has always reminded me of Wisconsin, and both make me think of toast. This can lead to an incidence of grilled cheese sandwich), take a moment to let it open some perceptive avenues. Think about how a random assortment of meaningless forces made something that you recognize. Some may see God in the display; some may see the cosmos talking back to them; some may wonder at the amazement that wild impersonal chance can produce.

Thinking about this always makes me go inside and outside at the same time, which, for someone who isn't very religious, is a mind-stretcher, to say the least.

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20 November 2009

[liff] Twitter Is Crack Cocaine

2263.Didn't we just know it?

(Warning: Theres a couple of adult words on that. Nothing you've not heard before, but don't go readin' it to the toddlers, K?)

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[pdx design] Pride Foundations's 25th Anniversary – A Logo Design Contest Worth Entering

2262.As always I'm against "logo design" contests in the broad sense of the word. There are a few out there that deserve one's notice, and I think I've found one.

The Pride Foundation is a NW charity that functions as a philanthropic organization for the LBGT community, (read all about it), and is celebrating its 25th year of service with a 25th Anniversary Logo Design Contest. This differs from the usual logo design cattle call in several significant ways:
  1. The prize is a $250 donation to the non-profit of your choice.
  2. The logo will be used only during the Pride Foundation's 25th Anniversary year.
  3. It's meant to augment the current logo; it's not an attempt to get rebranding on the cheap.
  4. While they promise exposure, they don't promise that this will change your life, though it certainly could.
  5. It's for a charity that serves one of the most vulnerable segments of society right now. Your guardian angel will like it that you do this!
So, here's one logo design contest you can enter that's not evil, in my opinion. I'd at least recommend a serious look. For links to the submission guidelines, rules, and all contact info, check out:


Good luck.

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[IP] U of O Quacks Down On Viral Video – And They're In The Right. Here's Why.

2261.By now, everyone who's curious has seen it or is soon going to because of the buzz … the viral video "I Love My Ducks", by three enterprising UO students … and one registered trademark.

I Smell Roses @ Yahoo! Video

Now, I'll put my cards on the table right here; I'm bored by football – except for college football, and when it comes to that, I bleed Orange. So that's me for you. I think the smell of roses this year is a little stronger in Cow Valley than in Eugene (for more than obvious reasons).

But even though I'm not on "their" side, I'd be the last person in the world to deny their passion for their overrated honorable team. We pick our ponies and we fall in love with them; you roll your dice and take your chances. And sometimes, people who are not lawyers get so in love over their paramour that they forget that things like logos and trademarks and characters like the U of O Fighting Duck – which began life as Disney's Donald Duck – actually belong to someone else, regardless of the emotional investment the fan has.

Or, perhaps, in this case, they just didn't realize this. Or maybe they figured the U would go along once they saw what a good light the mascot was being used in.

The University of Oregon is very very careful about the use of thier marks. Always has been. You might remember in the last political campaign cycle, when Gordon Smith's US Senatorial re-election bid used a font that looked suspicously similar – some thought identical – to the distinctive font found on UO's athletic program, named – appropriately – Belotti Bold:

The probelm with Smith using this font for his campaign is that Belotti Bold is a bespoke font. Just as with so-called "bespoke" fashion, a bespoke font is one developed specifically for a certain customer and not released for sale. The customer – UO, in this case – has the sole right to use and is to whom all permissions must be obtained from.

I can't remember what effect it had on the Smith campaign organisation – I'm sure it embarrassed them just a little – and they removed the very-close-to-Belotti-Bold font from the website.

Actually, while the U of O undoubtedly clearly understands the unspoken message that could be contained within the appearance of the mascot in the video – that the U of O endorses it, at least tacitly – there's more than just that. The U of O Fighting Duck's resemblance to one very well-known Disney character is not just coincidence. As the duck, originally appearing in the 1930s, evolved in artistic depiction over the years, it began to resemble Donald more and more. Walt took note, and the then-athletic director of the U, Leo Harris, who was a friend of Disney, got him to agree on a handshake. Much later, in the 70s, this was formalized as an agreement that essentially licensed the use of the Donald-esque duck to the U of O only, and only by and for Oregon sports.

So, to chase this down to the bitter end, the U of O doesn't actually own the depiction of the duck – Disney does. And Disney allows the U to use it under a set of strict conditions. Conceivably, unless the U takes quick and decisive action, could the Oregon actually lose the right to use it?

The question has been asked and is now on the table. It seems possible. Oregon's marketing dept has actually been stuck in the position of having to be the bad guy.

Moreover, allowing this use would set a precedent. It's funny – when I was a kid, if a parent or someone in authority said "if I let you do it, I'd have to let everyone do it too", I resented that. As an adult I understand that you can't simply pick and choose here. Anyone following Supwitchugirl's effort, if allowed to stand, would be credibly able to point to that video and assert that if they were allowed to do it, so should others. And I'm not a lawyer, but I think they just might have a case there.

So … yeah. It's a painful fact of life, especially for some Duck fans, but the Universitas Oregonensis may seem to be a bit of a bully. But they're on solid ground here and have not only every right to demand the video be taken down but also every right to expect it to happen, the Streisand-effect propagation not withstanding. To protect a most unique relationship giving them the right to use a Disney character for a logo, they would indeed seem obliged to move in a decisive manner.

Some local Duckers are a bit alienated. I can understand why. The U has to be the buzzkill here, and is doing it to a turn. Personally, I don't want to see the Ducks cry over something like this … I'd much rather see them cry the minute the clock ticks off the last second of the Civil War the Beavers win, as they wave bye-bye to their Rose Bowl chance.

Hey, no hatin'. I do bleed Orange though, so there's me for you.

And, as far as I know, Benny Beaver has no cross-ownership issues. So, he has that workin' for him.

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15 November 2009

[liff] Ken:By Request Only - Finally Hear What's Behind the Awesomest Album Cover Of All Time!

2260.He's Baaaaaaack …

Ken. By Request Only. The Awesomest Record Album cover of Time, Space, and Dimension. It will never leave the Intartubes:

Have you ever wondered exactly what Ken's song styling sounds like, though? This album is said to have fetched north of $150 when auctioned off at eBay, but what sort of melodic tuneweaving can Ken Snyder do?

Wonder no more.

Click this link to listen to the album on YouTube (or click on the album cover above), where some brave soul has posted the tracks as a playlist.

Not wholly unpleasant, as it turns out. Corny, mawkishly-charming soft songs about sweet things and nice feelings and God and Jesus and stuff. Not Grammy-material, workmanlike but passionate effort, not mad skillz … but not untalented either.

(H/T to Garrido who left this link in the comments to the article at the end of the first link, and found me via some web search apparently. I have no connection or relation to the fellow otherwise)

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12 November 2009

[type] Mr Subliminal Tells A Joke In Type

2259.Back in the mid '90s, when Saturday Night Live was still cool and funny [1], repertory cast member Kevin Nealon got a great deal of mileage out a character who was originally named Phil Maloney, an ad exec, but who became known as "Mr. Subliminal". The character delivered a monologue but quickly and sotto voce at critical points inserted clues to how he was really feeling about what it was he was talking about, making it a round commentary on PR in general. As an example (culled from Wikipedia) here's what he had to say about a fellow who inexplicably made world news back in 1994 for being convicted of vandalism in Singapore and was going to be subject to that brutal punishment of which the island city-state is so very famous for:

… the boy admitted to spray painting cars but he's only eighteen and young people often do stupid and impulsive things they later regret Shannen Doherty. I happen to think [pause] that everyone's entitled to one mistake Euro Disney. And I'm not saying there aren't [pause] those who I'd love to see get a good flogging Urkel, it's just that [pause] I'm afraid we've become so insensitive that we've learned to accept the idea of a man's beating in public Pee Wee Herman.

A t-shirt I've seen recently reads "Hi, I'm Hot Sex Mr. Subliminal". You get the idea.

Type gives an excellent route for this. This a sort of "painting with type" that you may hear typographers rhapsodizing about from time to time, and it's quite funny (and since it has to do with web entrepreneurship, ever timely):

as the graphic says, copyright by @Boris,/

I can just hear Nealon sotto voceing the white type. And it's all quite funny, with the ring of truth that only a web entrepreneurship professional can bring. And the twist ending is quite good.

And you can all do it with type, and that's what I love about type.

[1] The period that SNL was "cool and funny" seems to be defined for everyone as about 3-5 years in the past, with the standard agreement for everybody being the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players era was pretty much awesome (essentially the first two seasons), though everyone agrees the sixth season was pretty much ass.

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[blog] My Illustrations – A Victim Of My Own Popularity

2258.My hit count (as measured by SiteMeter) per day has been trending upward, which is satisfying to me even if a great deal of them are search hits (though I do get niftyness from Twitter these days). I imagine that it has something to do with the footprint my blog is making – the more I post about the things I care about the more like-mindeds are likely to find me.

Unfortunately, since I'm still poor, I depend on free services to host my images. Photobucket served me very well for a long time but even at my trending-upwards-but-still-modest traffic, I'm now running into a problem I never thought I'd have – in particular here, the 10 MB monthly bandwidth limit Photobucket imposes.

So, as time goes on, I"m shifting my illustration host to Picasa, which makes sense in as much as this blog his hosted by Blogger and the Picasa web interface is cleaner and more intuitive than Photobucket's anyway.

So, if you come here on a search and you get the Photobucket redline graphic, shoot me an email and I'll relocate the graphic. I'm getting to them as I can, assisted by Photobucket's Stats suite.

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07 November 2009

[comic art] The Tintin Sketchbook

2257.There be lots of Tintins here.

And Snowys. And Thom(p)sons. And Haddocks. Even a Thompson Triplet. Sadly, no Bianca Castafiore, Professor Calculus, or even Jollyon Wagg. You can't have it all.

(Update: I have been apprised, by gallery owner Leigh Walton, that there are indeed at least one Castafiore and a couple of Calculuses (?). Next time, I should be more thorough)

But, there are not only about 100 Tintins/Snowys/Haddocks/Thom(p)sons, there are many interpretations. I particularly enjoy the one I've chosen to illustrate, by artist David Chelsea, since I'm also terribly besotted with Magritte.

From the Flickr description:

Hi, I'm Leigh from Top Shelf. This is a themed sketchbook I started collecting at San Diego Comic-Con 2008. The theme is Herge's Tintin -- any character from the series. So far I've filled up one whole book and moved into a second volume...

100 interesting departures (including a graphic-novel-style realistic Tintin I quite enjoyed can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phthoggos/sets/72157606566029871/

Go see it.

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06 November 2009

[ad_design] What Might Have Happened If The D&D Club Started Drinking Canadian Club

2256.Last year some ad agency came up with an ad campaign for Canadian Club whisky based on a certain retro perception of The Sixties Dude – a campaign that was a little bit rude, rather un-PC, and played on that proletarian worldliness that could only be bespoke by a tagline such as Your Mom Wasn't Your Dad's First.

Love ya, Mom.

Such ads are ripe for spoofing. And someone did. Beautifully.

Clicky upon the image to embiggen. The copy on the Canadian Club ads reads:

YOUR MOM WASN'T YOUR DAD'S FIRST. He went out. He got two numbers in one night. He drank cocktails. But they were whisky cocktails. Made with Canadian Club®. Served in a rocks glass. They tasted good. They were effortless. DAMN RIGHT YOUR DAD DRANK IT.

Whereas the brilliant copy on this reads:
YOUR DAD WAS A LEVEL 22 NECROMANCER. He didn't bitch about server lag. Your dad put on his ears and his green boots and didn't care who saw. He rolled to feel up his elf girlfriend after kicking Acerrack's ass in the Tomb of Horrors. He set his classmates on edge. He was a nerd before it was cool. And he didn't give two shits about what comic books Megan Fox reads. DAMN RIGHT YOUR DAD PLAYED IT.
Like I said, pitch-perfect. And, I don't know about you all, but you've gotta know that the stereotype of the sexless nerd was just that; as the main character in Revenge of the Nerds sagely noted, "All jocks think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex". True, that. And, I don't know about you all, but those two cuties down in front in the big picture look pretty rowwwr to my inner 17-year-old.

Yep, back then. There were lady gamers. Yes, typically speaking, they were hot. We tried to tell y'all, but you wouldn't listen.

Ah, good times. Good times.

(Thanks to Lyle, who Knew Me Back In The Day™, if you follow)

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[maps] Lancashire: 10,000 Holes, And One Invisible Town

2255.If you haven't heard of Argleton, Lancs, UK, I'm not a bit surprised. It's a bit of a phantom, actually.

If you go to Google Maps, you'll be centered on a spot approximately 10 miles NNE of Liverpool, England, in the Lancashire countryside. Here's a link:

Here's a URL link to the above Google Map

Lovely looking place. Quiet green fields; lovely hedgerows; convenient to both the Motorway (that's British for freeway, Clem) A58 and the Aughton Town Green rail station, you won't want for transportation options.

The only thing Argleton doesn't seem to have is … well, you can see above. There seems to be no actual there, there:

The town appears on Google Maps in the middle of fields close to the M58 motorway, just south of Ormskirk.

Its 'presence' means that online businesses that use data from the software have detected it and automatically treated it as a real town in the L39 postcode area.

An internet search for the town now brings up a series of home, job and dating listings for people and places "in Argleton", as well as websites which help people find its nearest chiropractor and even plan jogging or hiking routes through it. The businesses, people and services listed are real, but are actually based elsewhere in the same postcode area.

Neither Google Maps nor the company associated with the provision of the basic data can explain what Argleton's doing there, Brigadoon-like, in a field, just south of Ormskirk.

One wonders how The Beatles would have handled this one, here.

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04 November 2009

[net_liff] Win Fawlty Towers For Following Dave At Twitter

2254.As anyone knows, Dave Knows PDX.

Dave knows PDX is built on an ancient unicorn burial ground, and you can trust Dave, because Dave Knows PDX, as I said.

I know that Dave is on Twitter, and Dave knows he wants more followers, and if you follow Dave, then you DM him on Twitter so that Dave knows you're following him, he will enter your name in a drawing, and once Dave knows he has more than 150 followers, he'll randomly pick a name and you'll know whether or not you'll be the proud owner of a shrink-wrapped set of the complete run of Fawlty Towers, which, as you and Dave and everyone knows, stars the not-yet-late John Cleese.

You know.

So you'll want to follow Dave at http://twitter.com/DaveKnowsPDX. And then let him know that you're following him.

If you know what I mean. You know?

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[liff] Unpaid Layout Work is STILL Layout Work …

2253.… ands I lurves me some layout work. And I work best under a deadline. I hate them and I love them. And my hands are very full. Working in InDesign CS3 to lay out the OryCon 31 Programs and the Sierra Club Columbia Groups Columbia Overlook.

In the meantime, let me leave you with this thought to mull over, cribbed from comic Charles Fleischer, but probably somewhat incorrectly (but that's okay):

If Van Johnson had a gym, and Jim Morrison and a van and Don Johnson needed to get there in a hurry, would Van Johnson let Don Johnson use Jim Morrison's van to get to Van Johnson's Gym?

Just askin'.

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